It was a karting day for me on 28th May as I spent the day covering two corporate karting events – Round 1 of the inaugural OCBC Corporate Karting Challenge and the KF1 Karting Challenge trial day.
KF1 Karting Challenge
The KF1 Karting Challenge is an idea not surprising but only early this year to be executed. It is basically an exclusive kart racing club by membership only (more on the packages later) and the first official race will be held on 3rd September later this year at Turns 1, 2 and 3 of the Formula 1 Marina Bay street circuit.
Yes, go-karting has now taken to the F1 circuit, like how drifting took to the same place last year with Formula Drift Singapore.
Richard Tan is the man behind the KF1 Karting Challenge, boasting a huge passion for karting, and has had the idea of karting on the F1 track since the first ever F1 night back in 2008. General manager of Arina Hogan Builders, his company is responsible for constructing the lighting structures of the entire circuit.
It took time for the various approvals to be made, while at the same time developing the plan and also ensuring the financials to execute it. A large part of credit seems to go to Colin Syn, deputy chairman of race organiser Singapore GP Pte Ltd and deputy member of the FIA World Motor Sport Council, whom Richard could not stop expressing his profound gratitude for,
Anyway, the members-only KF1 Karting Challenge will be in race karts (that members have to purchase; details later) and will enter two endurance races on 3rd September, each lasting two hours – one at 4.00 pm and another at 7.00 pm (racing in karts at night with the circuit lights on!).
Members can form teams of four drivers to take part and the grid for the first race at 4.00 pm will be determined by total weight of the four drivers, as the heaviest team will start in pole. For the second race at 7.00 pm, it will be a reverse grid, probably stemmed from results from the first race.
Come 18th September, there is another KF1 Karting Challenge race tentatively scheduled to take place at ORCHARD ROAD! Now that will be interesting…
There are three official practice sessions across July and August before the race. What I attended was the official trial session, but I understand there were two more informal sessions like these for people to come and try the track.
This KF1 Karting Challenge club is targeted at the corporate high-fliers in an attempt not to promote racing but a lifestyle instead. With space for only 30 teams for the race, I was told 16 teams have already signed up.
How to be a member?
Simply purchase a race kart package for entry: With a choice of Birel, Tony Kart or Fernando Alonso Kart from $22,000 to $48,000 depending on the package that includes hospitality access, tickets to the race, storage, mechanics etc.
*low whistle* That’s quite an investment man.
Getting a go at karting on the F1 circuit, I hopped into the 160cc fun karts (slower than the 200cc ones at Kartright Speedway) and went round for 10 minutes. These fun karts have metal barriers around and a Sabelt four-point safety belt – this is the first time in my life that I’m karting with seat belts!
Karting on the F1 street circuit was quite an experience – the roads were very smooth, learning the 800-metre route as I went along the course marked out in cones. The track for the race is said to be much longer, more challenge, of CIK Grade 1 and eventually marked out with TECPRO barriers, low-wall barriers made of rotational moulding of flexible polyethylene used in F1 as well.
Costing Richard half a million dollars to plan this all, he is excited and happy that he finally gets to live his dream. The track was designed by him by the way and he seeks satisfaction in the fact that the track is not fixed and can be improved at any time.
Those who are keen to hold corporate karting events at the F1 circuit can go through Richard and his guys at KF1 Pte Ltd, but it’s not gonna be cheap!
OCBC Corporate Karting Challenge – Round 1
Hurrying down to Kartright Speedway after I karted at Marina Bay, I made it in time to catch the first 10 teams of the OCBC Corporate Karting Challenge 2011 season. This is the first year and the first of its kind, with a total of 30 teams that registered to take part in the three-round elimination, hoping to make it to one of the 12 seats in the Grand Final.
With a brand new fleet of karts to be used purely for the series, each team consists of six drivers (four main drivers and two reserves) and to rotate driving duties amongst its drivers over the course of the four-hour race. The winning team is the one that completes the most number of laps within the stipulated time period.
It is the rising trend in corporate karting events that led to the birth of the OCBC Corporate Karting Challenge. More companies are looking for alternative and new ways of company outings/bondings and go-karting is one of them, instilling a little competition, sport and adrenalin rush in their staffs.
“The first round of the OCBC Corporate Karting Challenge was a resounding success on all aspects. We have seen a huge take-up in corporate events at Kartright Speedway and the Corporate Karting Challenge is like the pinnacle for them to work towards. After enjoying the corporate karting sessions, it all culminates at the Corporate Karting Challenge, which serves as a great progression for those who genuinely enjoy the sport without having to go into the professional race kart scene,” said Dato’ Jude Benny, director of Kartright (Pte) Ltd.
At the end of a long day – after practice, qualifying and the 4.00 pm four-hour endurance race – automotive companies Aston Martin Singapore and Borneo Motors (authorised distributor for Toyota and Lexus in Singapore) finished first and second respectively, beating eight others from companies like Teams from OCBC Bank, Singapore Exchange Limited, HRMS Consulting Asia Pacific Pte Ltd and FUCHS Lubricants Pte Ltd.
It’s pure coincidence (as well as some element of luck) that the car companies won, with the Aston Martin Singapore team packed with experienced pro karters from Drakar Racing including defending Senior champion Mohammed Nasri Naufal (Opai) and Borneo Motor’s Team Rising Sun filled with track enthusiasts who have that inclination of driving fast.
The Aston Martin Singapore Drakar Racing Team was kept on its heels throughout the race as it met with adversity repeatedly. Thankfully, they managed to overcome the various misfortunes to emerge victorious at the end of the night.
They qualified first (qualifying is based on the fastest lap from the team and not an average of the fastest laps of each driver) and Opai charged off with the lead, staying at the top of the table when their front right tyre failed them and they had to come in for a tyre change, losing precious time and relegating them to seventh from first.
They managed to earn back the lead but Raymond Low just had to cross the blend line (the white line separating the lane for exiting karts from the pit) and was penalised a deduction of two laps. An additional one-lap penalty was incurred when James Lee pushed the kart out of the refuelling bay. No help is allowed from team-mates and the appointed driver at any one time is to drive the kart by himself.
Dropping to fourth from first, they continued chasing and finally in the last half hour of the race, they hunted the race leader down and took the chequered flag just one lap ahead of Team Rising Sun in second place, with a total of 293 laps (including three laps deducted).
The biggest upset of the day went to Team Munich Re-Endurance of insurance company Munich RE (Life Asia) when they incurred a mind-blowing 14-lap penalty for exceeding the driver’s time limit of 30 minutes by seven minutes (two-lap penalty for every minute exceeded over the time limit). They finished eighth with a total of 283 laps and would have been tops with 297 laps if they didn’t make that grave mistake.
The other two teams going into the Grand Final are MC2! Peregrine of sporting lifestyle and hobby portal MIndCHIC! Club who finished third and Eye2Eye Burners of IT company Eye-2-Eye Communications Pte Ltd in fourth. When interviewed, both teams shared that they never participated in an official karting race before and had minimal practice due to the expensive costs of karting!
Clocking the fastest lap of the entire four-hour kart endurance race was Eric Tan of Team Rising Sun with a time of 45.27 seconds. The 29-year-old Borneo Motors sales engineer said, “I was aiming to clock the fastest lap of the day and I did. My experience in tracking might have helped, as I’ve only karted less than five times before this! We were aiming to qualify for the Grand Final and are more than satisfied with achieving first runner-up. At some points in the race we were actually leading the pack!”
At the end of the race, 51-year-old Leon Khoo who was driving for the OCBC Red Power team, walked out for his kart limping as his “legs had turned jelly”. A veteran race karter in the Singapore Karting Championship, I admire his never-too-old-for-racing mentality and determination!
The second elimination round of the OCBC Corporate Karting Challenge will be held on 2 July 2011. Teams from OCBC Bank, Aston Martin Singapore, Unilever Asia Pte Ltd and JTC Corporation will be competing for the four tickets to the Grand Final.
My boys’ team – CTMC2! PDB Maddox Singapore Racing – will be competing in Round 2! *fingers crossed*